2007-2008 Supercomputing Challenge New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge


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    Team Number: 022

    School Name: Springer High School

    Area of Science: Engineering/Architecture

    Project Title: Building An Earthship

Final Report

A typical American home is radically different from an Earthship. Most homes are designed to "protect" its occupants from the environment. The Earthship works in the opposite direction by taking advantage of the cycles of Mother Nature. A typical normal subdivision would be in great trouble if the electrical power utility lines failed for an extended period due to a natural disaster such as a tornado or earthquake. Such homes would lose their ability to function without electricity to provide lighting or AC power for appliances such as furnaces, deep well pumps, or freezers. Earhtships produce their own electricity, water, and some of their food supply. Due to the Earth berming concept, they are far less likely to sustain major damage from natural disasters.

There has been a debate whether Earhtships are a sustainable building technology among many natural builders. This ofter centers on the fact that some owner-builder versions use large amounts of concrete and/ or once used aluminum cans or bottles to build parapet walls. Concrete certaintly is a high-embodied energy product, an unfortunate by product of its transportation and manufacturing process. Aluminum is especially a high-embodied energy product, but its use decreases the amount of concrete needed. The automobile tires used in building the tire walls are discard or reject tires destined for the local landfill. Rather than throwing the tires in the garbage dump, they are recycled to contain the Earthship's mass wall structure that acts like a thermal battery to hold temperature.

An Earthship receives most or all of its winter heating from large sloping souble pane windows located on the south front face. The lower angle of the winter Sun is converted into heat as it strikes the darker thermally conductive walls and floor during the day, releasing it back into the living space at night. The penetration of the Sun's long wave radiation of the summer Sun is limited to the front planters by the Earthship's roof design. The surrounding earth berm and all of the internal earth plastered tire walls. have very strong capacity for moderation inside temperatures due to the large thermal mass. Operable skylights bring in extra light and allow stale heated air to exit rearward while front dormer windows bring in fresh air ventilation.

The planters can be found in many places along the south side of the Earhtship. Here you can practice "raised bed" gardening indoors all year long. A typical house plant can mushroom to the size of a tree. Many types of housepalnts, vegetables, and fruits can be grown. In addition to the nutrient rich gray water, compost and earthworms help produce a rich crop of produce in the planters along the "Environmental Interface Corridor". Finally, you can participate in indoor gardenig without the terror of mosquitoes.

The planters are aligned on the south side under the front sloping windows. There are also smaller planters in front of each room on the north part of the front hallway. The gray water circulates through the front planters only. Notice how the October Sun penetrates into the Earthship. By the Winter Solstice on December 21, the Sun shines deep into the rooms. The floor feels great to the bare feet with the Sun shining on it. The best floor surface is darker ceramic tile, earthen adobe, or flagstone. At the Summer Solstice on June 21, the Sun only hits the front planters. Without direct sun contact, the Summer time floor will feel refreshingly cooler. Insulated sunshades adder later, shields more of the summer Sun and further prevents winter evening heat loss.

The lower level is located to the right side of the upper level. There are two 3,000 gallon cisterns to catch naturally soft rainwater. The roof is a food grade sheet metal. The snow melts whenever the temperature is above 12 degrees F, and the sun is shining (due to the dark color absorbing the Sun's rays). The rainwater is run through a silt catchment and then through a four stage particle filtration process.

The skills required to build an Earthship can be learned in relatively little time. The automobile tires, each packed with about 350 pounds of soil, lock in place like a jigsaw puzzle. Internal non-loaded bearing walls are constructed of aluminum cans and mortar. All surfaces, layered with earthen plaster, are very pleasant to view when finished. You can decorate the inside walls of an Earthship to look any way you want them.

We have learned a lot of different things since Glorieta. We have learned to write an HTML document, we have also learned a little bit of C++. Something that improved our work on the internet was using quotations to get better information.

Team Members

Team Mail

Sponsoring Teachers

Project Advisor(s)

  • John E. Wood
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